It’s been 20 years since that day. The day that changed it all. The day that everything went wrong. How could we let it get so far?
Every day I think about it. About what we did, What I did. Never a day goes by without that the memories pops up in my mind. They’re like movies on repeat. Playing over and over again, never stopping.
Karen was a tiny, blond, nervous girl. And she was the new girl. I didn’t actually notice that she was around the first couple of days. She was so quiet. Always alone. I didn’t think so much about her really. Not before Henry got the brilliant idea that we should get to know her. I was all in for the suggestion, we all were.
I was walking home after that day with Henry, Liza, Ben, Sarah and Lucas as always when we saw her. Karen was walking in front of us. She was probably on her way home too. She was walking very slowly and her head was turned down. I wondered what she was thinking about.
“Karen!” Henry shouted and ran after her. She stopped. Her eyes were big, like she was afraid he was going to hurt her. I don’t know what he told her, but I know it wasn’t something nice, something that would make a person smile. I saw her face suddenly turning to a surprised, sad expression followed by Henrys laugh. We ran to them both. “What’s up?” I asked. “Hey, don’t you all agree that Karen is really small? I mean, she looks like she could be a 5th grader and not a 8th grader. It’s embarrassing!” We all laughed. At least I thought so, but when I looked at Karen, she barely smiled. You could easily see that she wasn’t comfortable about the situation.
Suddenly Henry turned to me. “Don’t you agree, Mary?” Everyone looked at me and I felt me face turn red of all the attention. “Sure!” I said self-assured and smirked.
I told the other guys that I had to hurry home and left them there. Or should I say: left Karen there, with them, my friends.
At school the day after, things had changed a lot. I noticed that everyone started smiling impishly and pointing at Karen’s direction when she entered school. I asked Liza what had happened yesterday, but all I got to an answer was “She’s such a looser!”
They started going up against Karen, I followed after. What else should I have done?
“Karen!” It was Henry who shouted her name again. He was kind of the leader of our gang, he’d always been that. Karen freezed when she saw we were coming over to her. She desperately looked for a way to escape, but we surrounded her. There was no way out from this. “I can see you haven’t grown any since yesterday. Too bad for you! Because you see, we don’t like that you’re so small. It makes you look like a genius and us some stupid pupils. And that’s not fear, now is it?” Henry’s voice sounded threatening.
The next thing that followed went like a slow movie for me. It was like I was sitting in a cinema, watching a movie about myself and my life and I saw everything so clearly. Off course Henry started it, but we were quick to follow up on him. It started with just some small push. Karen fell to the ground and it got more violent. We started kicking her. I don’t know why I did it, but it’s like I said; I wasn’t really there, I was sitting in a cinema, watching it all happen. Off course that’s not a good reason for doing it, but I did it, we all did it. Together.
Karen came in the classroom 10 minutes late. Her eyes were red and I knew she had been crying, and the weirdest thing is that I can’t remember feeling sad or having a bad confidence.
I guess none of us had, and that’s why we kept it going. Every day we said something mean to her, hurt her in some way and we never cared. We never thought about the consequences, but one day something happened.
Six months had past since Karen had started in our class. It was lunchtime and we were looking for Karen, but she wasn’t in the canteen. So we just ate our lunch and talked about school and tv-shows we liked to watch.
After we had eaten, I felt I had to go to the bathroom. Liza and Sarah went with me. There was just one person in there in a stall and we didn’t hear anything, so we just talked about what we wanted. And that brought us to the topic; Karen. “Oh my God, she is so disgusting!” Liza said and took some more mascara on. “I know!” I said. “She smells like a rat and her eyes are way too big for that little head she got!” We laughed, I washed my hands and we went outside to meet the guys. That’s when we heard it, the gunshot. It came from right behind us. Everybody at school must have heard it and everybody freezed. Then a second with silence came, before the screaming, running and the panic. No one knew where it had come from, unless Liza, Sarah and I. We immediately turned around and ran back to the toilet. To the stall that had been closed. Because someone was in there, dead.
When we were in there, the atmosphere was totally different from it had been just a minute ago. A dam of something red was floating out from under the closed stall. We freezed. It was blood. I heard Sarah’s fast breathing from behind me. “I… I… I’ll go get a teacher!” She said and was out in a second. I looked at Liza. She looked like she had seen a ghost. Suddenly she ran to the next stall and vomited into the toilet.
“Mary! Oh God!” It was the headmaster, out teacher, another teacher I had only seen a couple of times before and the caretaker followed after him. They saw the blood too and I saw that they too were scared to death of everything. The caretaker opened the door carefully and we saw who it was. I couldn’t breath, I felt like screaming, because the person inside the stall was Karen.
A piece of paper was lying in the floor beside her dead body. Something was written there. “Oh Jesus! This is… This is… I can’t take this!” The caretaker cried and ran out of the door. I had been staring at the note for some minutes now and I saw what it said. “You win!”
That was the first time I felt guild about everything I had done to Karen, and it was the last time I bullied someone.
That was the day that changed my life, for ever.